Who should Real Madrid target in the January transfer window?

Last summer’s transfer window saw Real Madrid spend more than any side in Europe. Indeed, the Spanish giants went big as they added Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao, Rodrygo and Alphonse Areola all making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu. Not every signing was a ‘Galactico,’ but it did underline the club’s bullish approach to recruitment.

Now the transfer window is just days away from opening again. January will present Real Madrid the chance to reinforce their squad and as is always the case a number of players have been linked with a move to the Spanish capital. It wouldn’t be a transfer window without much speculation around Real Madrid.

There will be more conjecture around their long-standing interest in Paul Pogba. Zinedine Zidane was desperate for the French midfielder to be signed in the summer only for Manchester United to dig their heels in. Pogba has barely played this season due to injury and the suggestion is that he still wants a move away from Old Trafford.

However, prising Pogba from Man Utd’s grips midway through the season when they are already short of midfielders will be difficult and so Real Madrid might be forced to wait until the end of the season to get their man. With that in mind, who should they target in this upcoming transfer window?

Boubakary Soumare is reportedly on Real Madrid’s radar. The Lille midfielder would be a shrewd addition given his qualities as a midfielder. Standing at 6ft 2″, he possesses the physical attributes of Pogba, but has the work rate and modesty of someone like N’Golo Kante. He would be a popular figure at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid’s midfield isn’t in such desperate need of reinforcement, though, following the emergence of Fede Valverde and rejuvenation of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Instead, it’s in attack where they could use a deputy to Karim Benzema. Jovic was supposed to be that figure, but the Serbian has struggled to acclimatise to his new surroundings.

Benzema is enjoying the season of his life, but Real Madrid have become a little too dependent on the French striker of late. When he’s missing, or even when he’s not in top form, they struggle to get results. This was evident in the recent draws against Valencia, Barcelona and Athletic Club. If Real Madrid are to target new signings this January, this is where they could use them most.

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Karim Benzema’s France exile is to Real Madrid’s advantage

Were it not for a certain Pole in Bavaria, Karim Benzema would have a strong case as Europe’s best out-and-out centre forward at this moment. Indeed, Robert Lewandowski might have the Frenchman beat in terms of sheer numbers this season, but Benzema is still one of the hottest forwards in the game right now.

Many pondered who would replace Cristiano Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu upon his surprise sale to Juventus in the summer of 2018. A number of names, including Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, were mentioned, but it’s Benzema who has stepped up to fill the void left by his former teammate.

Of course, Benzema hasn’t quite managed to fully plug the hole in terms of goals left by Ronaldo, but there is no doubting his status as Real Madrid’s main man over the past two seasons. At 31, conventional wisdom states the Frenchman should be entering the twilight of his career, but these have been his peak years and there are no signs of him slowing down.

Load management will be crucial for Benzema over the next few years. This is why his exile from the France team is to Real Madrid’s advantage. The capital club are reported to be weighing up offering Benzema a new contract that would tie him to them until 2023. If they are to get value for that they must continue to load manage their best player.

Benzema has recently spoken about his disgruntlement at being exiled from the France squad for his role in a sex scandal involving Mathieu Valbuena back in 2015. Aiming his ire at FFF president Noel Le Graet, Benzema tweeted: “Noel, I thought you weren’t interfering with the coach’s decisions! I want you to know that I and I alone would end my international career. If you think I’m finished, let me play for one of the countries that I’m eligible for and we’ll see.”

It’s understandable that Benzema still wants to play for his country. Les Blues are enjoying a golden spell having won the 2018 World Cup. They will also be among the favourites for next summer’s European Championships. But from Real Madrid’s point of view, the additional rest time afforded to Benzema over his teammates during international breaks will stand them in good stead. They must continue to protect their top goalscorer and this allows them to do so.

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Real Madrid finally finding momentum after sticky start to season

There were those who doubted Zinedine Zidane would even survive the last international break. The two-week break after the defeat to Real Mallorca left Real Madrid president Florentino Perez with a long time to fester on what was the club’s worst result of the season so far. If Real Madrid were making progress under Zidane, it was difficult to see it.

Since that defeat, though, the capital club have finally found their groove. There is a sense that Real Madrid are starting to build something, underlined by their comprehensive 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday and the sight of Zidane’s men at the top of La Liga for a few hours before Barcelona’s win over Celta Vigo on the same night.

Zidane is finally settling on a favoured lineup, most notably in the centre of the pitch. Luka Modric has returned from injury, but he is having to fight for his position alongside Toni Kroos, with Casemiro and Fede Valverde currently favoured for two of the three central midfield spots. Valverde in particular has been a revelation. The Uruguayan’s emergence at the Santiago Bernabeu is a big reason behind Real Madrid’s recent resurgence.

In attack, Rodrygo has electrified the Spanish and European game, scoring a hat-trick in the Champions League win over Galatasaray during the week. Indeed, the Brazilian teenager has become Real Madrid’s ‘Next Big Thing’ over the past weeks, making the position on the right side of Zidane’s front three his own.

Then there’s Eden Hazard. The Belgian has faced his critics since signing for Chelsea in the summer transfer window, with some even questioning his fitness levels. It is certainly true that Hazard has taken his time in growing accustomed to his new surroundings, but there are signs that he is starting to find his feet.

Hazard was at his sparkling best in the 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday. Most encouraging, from a Real Madrid point of view, is the understanding with Karim Benzema the Belgian seems to have developed. That is a relationship Zidane should seek to build around. It could be the key to Real Madrid’s season.

Since that defeat to Real Mallorca, Real Madrid have gone five games without conceding, scoring 16 in the process. Zidane was widely seen as a dead man walking when the last international break arrived. Now that we are heading into another international break, the last of the year, Zidane and his side have a very different complexion.

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Barcelona’s incentive to end Real Madrid’s season

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There was a 50 percent chance of it happening, and once Valencia and Real Betis had been drawn out of the Copa del Rey hat, it meant that, yes, we were going to see a two-legged El Clasico semi-final.

Moreover, the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu precedes a league match between the two teams at the same venue just 72 hours later.

It’s the first time in Barcelona’s history that they will have played two consecutive games at the Bernabeu, and given their recent record there, the Blaugrana will be entirely confident of continuing their run of victories. Continue reading

Ballon Bore – How the awards have become a laughing stock

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There once was a time when the Ballon d’Or awards really seemed to mean something.

Being the best in the world in the eyes of your peers was a gong worth winning and most of the time there was no real argument as to who the eventual winner was.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have monopolised the award, however, we’ve seen ridiculous tactical voting and even an unprecedented extension of the voting period in order to allow the Portuguese to win it during the year in which he was well behind the Argentinian at the original cut off point.

The situation has only been made worse with a splintering of the award in the recent past.

Now we have FIFA’s ‘The Best’ as a rival to France Football’s Ballon d’Or, as well as the UEFA Player of the Year.

We’ve seen people crowned as the best in their respective position who’ve then not made the team of the year (Thibaut Courtois), and Mo Salah winning the best goal of the year in the Puskas Award when it was abundantly clear that his strike was nowhere close to the best effort.

Though it was probably a knee-jerk reaction at the time, Jorge Mendes, Ronaldo’s agent, saying that only Real Madrid players win the award, when FIFA’s The Best was given to Luka Modric rather than his client, was telling.

With the greatest of respect, including Karim Benzema on the list of 30 players for this season’s Ballon d’Or is utterly farcical.

The Frenchman has struggled to put the ball in the back of the net for the best part of a year now, and after an initial burst of goals at the start of this campaign, is back to the poor form of 2017/18.

There is literally no reason for him to be on the list other than the fact that he plays for Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi is unlikely to win it this year, after missing out on both the UEFA Team of the Year and FIFA’s The Best, however, out of every candidate, with the possible exceptions of Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann, the Argentinian deserves it.

Griezmann has already been vocal in saying that the best player has to come from the best team, insinuating that a French World Cup winner has to win. As he’s also won the Europa League and the UEFA Super Cup, there’s a school of thought that would agree with him.

Equally, a third successive Champions League trophy for Real Madrid gives Ronaldo a shout.

However, the Ballon d’Or is an individual award, and no one player has done more than Messi to rightfully stake a claim.

Goals, assists, key passes, completed passes… the No.10 reigns supreme.

Frankly, if the governing bodies can’t or won’t give the award to the players who deserve it the most, what’s the real point of making such a song and dance about them in the first place?!

All it’s doing is alienating the public further and treating them with contempt.

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Madrid inflict harsh punishment on Girona in 6-3 thriller


This week’s game of the week saw a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real Madrid shred a usually defensively sound Girona to pieces, in a 6-3 thriller that firmly re-established them as one of the dominant forces in the Spanish top tier.

The Portuguese striker opened proceedings in the 11th minute when he tucked home a Toni Kroos ball into the box into the bottom right corner of the net, before Christian Stuani cancelled it out just before the half hour mark – his bullet header from a precise corner proving too much for Keylor Navas to deal with.

The game was still to play for as the whistle went for the second half put Ronaldo soon put an end to that.

He added his second goal in extra-ordinary fashion, blasting in off the underside of Bono’s cross bar to reinstate Los Blancos lead. Continue reading

La vida sin la BBC


Desde 2013, la BBC es el tridente letal del Real Madrid. La ofensiva marcada por Bale, Benzema y Cristiano es una lluvia de goles. Sin embargo, este año no solo no ha coincido, sino que tampoco está marcando la lluvia de goles a los que nos tenía acostumbrado. Los motivos son diversos, pero los tantos ahora los marcan otros.

La sanción liguera a Ronaldo ha supuesto que se haya perdido el inicio del campeonato nacional. Ya ha jugado, pero todavía no ha estrenado casillero. Por su parte, Bale y Benzema han quedado relegados por diversas lesiones. El francés, que lleva casi un mes de baja, apunta a regresar tras el parón de Selecciones. Y el galés no volverá hasta noviembre. En los partidos que han jugado, apenas han marcado tantos y es el peor registro goleador desde que existe la BBC. Continue reading

Las estrellas que no irán a la Euro


Ya es junio y la cuenta atrás para la Euro de Francia es inminente. Las mejores selecciones europeas y los grandes jugadores de sus países se darán cita en el campeonato continental… aunque algunos rostros importantes estarán ausentes por diversos motivos.

Isco – España

Al malagueño le han faltado minutos esta temporada. Este año ha contado para los dos entrenadores del Madrid, pero siempre era un cambio socorrido (bien para entrar o para salir). Llegó a estar en la lista preliminar de Del Bosque, pero finalmente ha sido uno de los descartados porque solo podían ir 23 a Francia.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Inglaterra

El centrocampista de los gunners ha recaído de su lesión de rodilla. La proyección del joven jugador, que ya es un habitual en las convocatorias nacionales, tendrá que esperar hasta que se recupere.

Benzema – Francia

El caso de Benzema es muy particular. El juicio por el caso Valbuena le apartó temporalmente de la selección, pero después de su «cautelar» Deschamps ha decidido prescindir de sus servicios.

Reus – Alemania

El jugador teutón se pierde la Eurocopa porque los médicos no pueden garantizar que llegue a tiempo por su lesión. La decisión ha sido dura para el técnico Löw, pero más para el futbolista, quién también estuvo ausente durante el pasado Mundial por el mismo motivo.

Vincent Kompany – Bélgica

El capital del City ya se ha perdido los últimos partidos de la temporada con su equipo por una lesión en los abductores, pero su mala suerte va más allá porque tampoco podrá ayudar a su selección.

Verratti – Italia

Una pubalgia es la responsable de que el delantero del PSG no pueda ir a la Eurocopa. Sin duda, la Squadra Azzurra echará de menos su olfato goleador.

Danny – Portugal

El ariete de la selección lusa es una máquina de goles con el Zenit, su rendimiento en Champions ha sido excelente. La dupla con Ronaldo se verá mermada por culpa de una rodilla.

Cheryshev – Rusia

Los pocos minutos del jugador durante esta temporada han sido claves en la decisión de no convocarle. Hasta Navidades disfrutó de pocas ocasiones más allá de la Copa con el Madrid, después se marchó cedido a Valencia, donde tuvo buenas actuaciones hasta su lesión. Además, llega muy justo tras pasar por el quirófano.

Benzema apunta a la Euro


La cuenta atrás para la Euro ya ha comenzado. Quedan menos de 3 meses para que arranque este campeonato y uno de los temas más candentes es el que rodea al caso Benzema. ¿Podrá disputar este torneo tan importante o seguirá castigado?

El ariete es uno de los pesos fuertes del equipo galo pero, tras su intervención judicial por la denuncia de su compatriota Valbuena, muchos franceses no vieron con buenos ojos que continuara en el equipo por temor a que esto contagiara de un mal ambiente a su Selección. En su momento, la Federación francesa tomó medidas y decidió apartarle temporalmente hasta que se aclarara la situación: todo ello a pesar de que la sanción se pudiera prolongar de manera indefinida y le excluyera de la Euro que tendrá lugar en su país.

No obstante, ahora Karim ve un destello de luz. La justicia francesa le ha levantado parcialmente dicho control judicial, un requisito por el cual se le vuelven a abrir las puertas de los Bleus. El día 17, Deschamps dará la próxima lista de convocados para sus compromisos amistosos ante Holanda y Rusia y diversos medios apuntan a que podría reaparecer. Además, todo esto sucede justo cuando está a punto de recuperarse de su lesión y llegaría a tiempo a los compromisos.

Benzema ha vestido hasta en 81 ocasiones la elástica gala, marcando 27 tantos y dando 17 asistencias. Unas cifras nada desdeñables para un equipo que aspira a coronarse campeón de Europa. Francia necesita sus goles y juego, ¿pero Karim se merece jugar? En el caso de volver a una convocatoria Bleu y de reaparecer en París, el debate estaría servido. Habría que esperar a ver cómo le recibiría la afición, quien recordemos que mayoritariamente era partidaria de apartarle. ¿Habrá pitos por el escándalo que ha podido acabar con la Selección? ¿O le perdonará con aplausos para unir el equipo de cara a la Eurocopa que se jugará en su casa?

La BBC en ebullición

Gareth BaleEl triplete del Real Madrid conformado por Bale, Benzema y Cristiano parece estar en uno de sus mejores momentos desde que los tres delanteros juegan juntos en el conjunto blanco. Tras haberse disputado la primera vuelta, el total de goles asciende a 40 entre toda la BBC y la conexión es total. La Cristianodependencia parece haber dado paso a un reparto más equitativo, lo cual puede ser muy positivo para el Real Madrid; cuando el luso no tenga su día, otro podrá responder por él.

Estábamos acostumbrados a que Ronaldo llevase el peso de todos los tantos y a que él solito sumase más del 50% del equipo. Pero, ¿qué ocurría cuando CR no tenía su día? Efectivamente, que el Madrid palmaba. Benzema y Bale apenas dejaban destellos y decidían pocos partidos. En cambio, esta temporada parece que se reparten los goles. Cristiano sigue siendo la estrella y, aunque pueda estar más fallón que otros años, cuenta con más apoyos efectivos en la delantera. Ronaldo lleva 14 goles, Benzema le iguala en esa cifra y Bale está solo 2 por debajo.

Era habitual que el luso marcase más de una veintena al final de la primera vuelta, lo cual dejaba a los demás el listón muy alto para alzarse con el trofeo Pichichi. Este año ha sorprendido que en algunas goleadas del conjunto blanco, como el 5-0 al Betis o el 4-0 al Depor, no haya participado directamente en ninguno de los tantos. No obstante, ha sido capaz de hacerle una manita al Espanyol y firmado un par de dobletes.

Benzema parece haber dejado atrás sus problemas personales para volver a centrarse en su carrera profesional. Sus 14 goles le permiten competir con Ronaldo por ser el máximo goleador del equipo, pero tienen más valor porque ha disputado muchos menos minutos. Parece el año del francés.

Respecto a Bale, es su tercera temporada y en el Bernabéu ha recibido más pitos que aplausos. No empezó muy fuerte, pero ya lleva 10 goles en los últimos 7 partidos de Liga. Un triplete y un póker le han aupado moralmente hasta recibir el apoyo de la grada. De hecho, en la mitad de partidos ya lleva anotados casi los mismos que el total de las dos campañas anteriores. Con confianza, un futbolista rinde más.

Por tanto, la conexión de la BBC puede ayudar muchísimo al equipo. Si todos marcan, todos salen ganando. Y este Madrid va a por todas.